Emotional intelligence. This is how you will differentiate yourself at work in the new millennieum.
We can see the world shifting around us in response to the fact that tolerance for poor social skills is getting less and less. The need to fit in with a group on some level, is getting higher and higher, and the tendency to hire people people in countries with low-cost labor to do socially isolated jobs increases every year as well.
One of the most high-profile examples of the extreme importance of emotional intelligence (EQ) is the new president of Harvard, Drew Gilpin Faust. She is the first female president of Harvard, but that’s not really the big news. The big news is that her most notable qualification for the job is an ability to communicate well with a wide range of people in the Harvard community. This is an explicit nod to the fact that the Harvard faculty is no longer willing to be managed by someone who has poor social skills.
Another example is the new definition of what makes a child a special needs student. Today many children who can read at age three are tagged as needing extra help in school because of signs of poorly developing social skills. Fifteen years ago those kids would have slipped through the system as eccentric geniuses. Today social skills are seen as so important to an education that they supersede IQ in terms of educational placement.
In the past, power or intelligence could make up for bad social skills at work. Increasingly this is no longer true.
You probably overestimate your emotional intelligence. Most of us do. You could get into real trouble when your EQ is extremely low — like posting naked photos of yourself, (which, by the way, is the search string that generates the most Google referrals to this blog.) Most of us are not doing insanely stupid things. We are just doing a series of smaller EQ mistakes day after day.
At some point, if your EQ is too low, you will hit a wall. Most people notice the wall when they can’t get a job, because today, the job hunts that are most successful are based on networking skills — in other words, EQ. But here are other areas of the workplace that are becoming more and more important. And success in each of these three areas depends heavily on EQ.
1. Project management and business analysis
These are key areas for job growth in the business sector in the coming years. And while these used to be gear-head positions, today they are all about emotional intelligence. The Northeastern College of Business Administration, for example, teaches project management by focusing on three areas: planning, team management, and negotiation.
And business analysts need soft skills as well. “MBA students we employ as business analysts don’t need to come into our company being a finance guru, able to espouse the latest financial theories,” Ken Barnet of financial services firm State Street Corporation said. “What’s much more important is that they know how to analyze issues and communicate recommendations.”
2. Connectivity and creativity
This is Dan Pink’s territory. And in his book , A Whole New Mind, he predicts the workplace of the new millennium will be about how people make connections. “Key abilities will not be high tech but high touch,” he says.
And we will value the ability to make meaning and connections in a world where information is a commodity. People who can synthesize information well to create new ideas will be highly valued in the workplace. But if you are great at coming up with new ideas, and you can’t communicate them, you will find yourself in the same position as the person who has no ideas. Having the emotional intelligence to connect people and ideas effectively is what matters in a workplace that’s overflowing with information.
3. Personal productivity
There’s a reason that many of the most popular blogs are about productivity, and consultant David Allen has been able to create an empire around his idea of getting things done: Productivity is cool. It’s about information and technology and making them work well to give you a better life. It’s a concept that has become so personal, and so specialized, that at this point, personal productivity is actually unique to this millenium.
The core of productivity advice, though, is self-knowledge, which is emotional intelligence. You have to know what you want most in order to know what to do first. You have to know your goals before you can productively meet them. And you have to have the self-consciousness to exert a sane, focused self-discipline to your life.
So when people tell you social skills are everything, and emotional intelligence will rule the workplace, think about where you want to succeed. Surely it is in at least one of these three areas. That’s why each of US needs to continuously work on our emotional intelligence.
So now you’re wondering how to get more emotional intelligence, right?
“Personal assessment is all the rage at business schools right now,” says Brendan Bannister, professor at Northeastern University. Not surprising, given that EQ is the area companies say they are most focused on hiring for.
Going to business school for personal development is a lot more costly than going to therapy every week. So maybe try that first. Empathy is very hard to teach, and most of emotional intelligence includes some piece of empathy. So get professional help if you’re really deficient. And if you’ve got a lot of money, go to business school.